#282 Belle de Jour

Watched: November 2 2020

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 40min

Séverine (Deneuve) is married to Pierre (Sorel) and on the surface their relationship is perfect. He is a respected and successful doctor and she is… pretty. That’s basically all you need to make a marriage work.

Well, that and the occasional light BDSM

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However, there is trouble in paradise. Séverine struggles with her sexuality after childhood molestation and is unable to have a normal sexlife with her husband. Her sexuality is further confused by her BDSM/rape fantasies – fantasies she cannot act on or even communicate to Pierre.

“You’re right, it has been a while since we saw your parents. Perhaps we should go next weekend? Oh, and could you pick up some milk after work tomorrow? Great. By the way, I’m going to need you to tie me up and rape me in order to get over my sexual hang-ups. And Renee says hi! We played tennis earlier today.”

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Since therapy was obviously not yet invented in France in the 1960s, Séverine decides to deal with her problems in her own way, by becoming a prostitute. Every day between two and five, she entertains at Madame Anais’ (Page) brothel as “Belle de jour” – Beauty of the day. Now, while this gives Séverine an opportunity to explore her sexuality in a “safe” way (i.e. with no emotional involvement or societal expectation of purity), this charade cannot last. Especially when one client becomes more than just a random John…

What woman can resist an underfed, criminal, alternative rock band front man with violent tendencies and an emo haircut?

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We love us some Buñuel, and Belle de jour delivers. The surrealism he’s known for may not be as pronounced as in many of his other works, but there are definite influences in the blurring of fantasy, dream and reality. It’s also an excellent example of how to make something sexy and alluring without actually showing much skin, and a very interesting exploration of “broken” female sexuality.

Oh, and did we mention Séverine’s outfits by Yves Saint-Laurent? That girl looks gooood in this movie (as opposed to her usual drab and dowdy look, you know).

Life Hack: You can always tell fiction from reality based on how many coats a person owns. If you’re supposed to be middle class but have a new coat for every day of the month, you’re a fictional character. If you’re unsure about your own status, check your closet and start counting.

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The costumes were great, we loved the Asian client (what’s with the bells?? What’s in the box???), we loved to hate Mr Husson (a truly horrible man), and we really enjoyed not always knowing which part was real life, which part was fantasy… There was also a touch of À bout de souffle towards the ending. All in all, this was a winner!

“I never imagined it could be so… small. And shiny! Has it always been detachable?”

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What we learned: All the things that can fuck up a girl’s sexuality. Also, men can proudly visit prostitutes, but prostitutes must be ashamed of providing the service. Go figure.

Next time: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

#277 Seconds

Watched: September 12 2020

Director: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Rock Hudson, John Randolph, Frances Reid, Murray Hamilton, Salome Jens

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 46min

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Arthur Hamilton (Randolph) is a middle aged, middle class banker who is tired of his unfulfilling existence. One day he receives a phone call from a deceased friend with promises of a whole new world.

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“A whole new wooorld! A new distorted point of view…”

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He seeks out the address given to him on a train and before he knows it he is pretty much blackmailed to go through with “rebirth” – a faked death, a new name, a new face, and a new life.

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“No point in screaming ‘no’ – you’ve nowhere to go! You’ll wish you’re only dreaming!”

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However, what could seem a dream to many in reality turns into a nightmare when Arthur, now Tony Wilson (Hudson), struggles to adjust to his new existence.

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“A whole new world (each new face a surprise!)”

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Seconds is tense, uncomfortable and unsettling. Tony’s decline and his ultimate fate are completely out of his control and very brutal.

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“A hundred thousand grapes to squeeze (get undressed, you’re a pagan)”

The film gave us a bit of a noir-vibe, possibly because of the way it is shot. We were gripped throughout though very uncomfortable, especially for the last 30 minutes or so. You can see where it’s going, but you still can’t look away.

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“Stop shouting who you are – you’ve gone too far!”

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The only weakness here is in the script – possibly the original book: we would have thought it even more impactful if Arthur/Tony chose to go through with the rebirth. As it is, he was tricked into it, which makes the message somewhat less poignant. In our opinion.

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“Now we’ll take your whole new world awaaaay…”

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All in all, if you want a depressing and disturbing sci-fi film for a rainy Tuesday night, go for Seconds. You can do a lot worse.

What we learned: Don’t believe the hype! (Except the hype about this movie. That’s all true.)

Next time: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

#276 Persona

Watched: August 31 2020

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Liv Ullman, Bibi Andersson

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 20min

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Actress Elisabet Vogler (Ullmann) stopped speaking after a performance of Elektra, and nurse Alma (Andersson) is tasked with looking after her and, if possible, bring her back to the world.

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“I was sure I heard the doctor say you should take care of me, not just stand around posing in the background…”

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The two women retreat to an isolated summer house for some R&R. Soon, Alma bonds strongly with her patient – to the point where she starts finding it difficult to distinguish between herself and Elisabet…

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“OMG, I can’t even tell us apart anymore! #twinsies!”

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So far, this might be our favourite Bergman, and not just because Liv Ullmann is from our city (sort of. Technically, she was born in Tokyo but our local cinema has a whole exhibition about her which is irrefutable proof that she’s officially from Trondheim). As regular readers will have gathered, we love psychological horror dramas with strong female characters and beautiful cinematography, and Persona checks all the boxes.

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If anyone’s wondering what to get us for Christmas, this entire outfit, luggage included, would not go amiss. Make a note!

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We loved the Un Chien Andalou-esque opening, the performances of both main characters, the very explanatory exposition scene at the beginning (we enjoy a good tell-don’t-show-scene), and the Swedish language (this might be considered treason, but Swedish is perhaps more beautiful than Norwegian, despite sounding a tiny bit whiny..).

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Just a second – you’ve got something on your face.

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It is quiet and violent at the same time, beautiful and repulsive, impossible to understand (although Bergman claimed it’s very straight forward and simple), and thoroughly fascinating. It is also a very probable inspiration for Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – the two might make a good, though emotionally exhausting, double feature. Definitely recommended!

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Say cheese!

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What we learned: Ingmar, your idea of “simple and straight forward” is very different from ours…

Next time: Seconds (1966)

#273 Fantastic Voyage

Watched: July 27 2020

Director: Richard Fleischer

Starring: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasence, Edmond O’Brien, Arthur O’Connelly, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Jean Del Val

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 40min

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During the cold war, an important scientist is nearly assassinated, and ends up in a coma.

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Then, to add insult to injury, someone glued a bunch of numbers and letters on his head. For shits and giggles. At least they’re all responsibly wearing masks.

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Surgery to repair the trauma to his brain proves to be too dangerous, and his knowledge is invaluable (if he still retains it), so naturally they come up with the only possible solution: shrink a crew of surgeons, captains, security people etc., and send them into the scientist’s blood stream in a submarine. With a possible traitor. And a laser.

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Why on earth didn’t they just send the surgeon in with the crew who went in to install all the lighting? Would have saved them hours.

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Inside the comatose man (sounds slightly illegal..?), Grant, Cora, the doctors and the rest of the crew encounter many obstacles. Chief among them being antibodies, arteriovenous fistula (learned a new word!), sabotage and sound. Not to mention cobwebs…

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Behold: the consequence of all the spiders you have accidentally consumed throughout your life!

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Fantastic Voyage is a fun and thrilling adventure film which has spawned many a spoof, parody and tribute. We loved the ’60s aesthetics, the disclaimer and title sequence, the lava lamp blood stream, generally everything to do with the design.

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Journey to the Centre of the Lava Lamp

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The plot was also intriguing and exciting, though we did unfortunately peg the traitor from the beginning. We were hoping for a double bluff, but alas!

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Spoiler alert: the saboteur is somewhere in this picture…

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Is it scientifically accurate? Probably not. We’re not physicians or physicists, but our basic understanding of human biology informs us that some artistic liberties may have been taken. However, it is very entertaining and just a tiny bit silly. Definitely worth a watch.

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Then, imagine these guys swimming inside of you. Among the cobwebs…

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What we learned: Humanity has NOT focused enough energy on the development of shrinking technology. Get your priorities straight, science people!

Next time: Gambit (1966)

#271 Cul-De-Sac

Watched: June 29 2020

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 52min

For our thoughts on Polanski in general, read this.

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Two injured gangsters, Dickie (Stander) and Albie (MacGowran), come upon a castle on a tidal island where they are stranded due to the tide. The castle’s inhabitants, George (Pleasence) and Teresa (Dorléac) are taken hostage and pulled into a powerplay with Dickie.

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“We may be in a hostage situation, but it’s important to make time for bathing and bonding in between the threats of violence.”

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We were very excited about the concept of this, and it was definitely beautifully shot. We loved parts of it and other parts were a bit meh. For instance, we loved the opening credits, George’s bad paintings (they were supposed to be bad, right..?), the horrible Horace who came to visit, that one clearly fake seagull, Donald Pleasence, and the setting.

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“I sure hope no hardened criminals decide to invade us while we’re playing dress up. Like my wife, they will never take me seriously as a man.”

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However, we didn’t quite get the humour in this comedy… Which probably says more about us than the film itself, but there it is. The dinner party and the grave digging were fun scenes, and Pleasence was a joy to watch, but otherwise we weren’t that into it.

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Alas, poor Albie. We didn’t know him well.

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We also found Teresa a bit confusing as a character. First off, what woman who’s a victim of a home invasion will proceed to sleep naked when the (male) invaders are still in the house? In addition, we’re very much over women in movies/books/etc. who cry rape the minute a prank or seduction goes wrong. Considering the director as well, it left a bad taste.

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Pictured: perfectly normal behaviour for a woman captured in a bad marriage and an ACTUAL HOSTAGE SITUATION! Not gratuitous at all.

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It’s a great concept and beautifully shot in black and white. There are also good performances by all the principal players. But we don’t think this one will stay with us the way many other movies have done. To us, it became a bit forgettable. Perhaps we’re just too biased against Polanski to really enjoy his work..?

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It’s pretty to look at though. So we guess that’s something.

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What we learned: Dames! Also, if you want to come visit, have the courtesy to telephone in advance. Especially if you’re bringing your brat…

Next time: Daisies (1966)

#270 Blow-Up

Watched: June 13 2020

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings, Sarah Miles, John Castle, Verushka, Jane Birkin, Peter Bowles, Gillian Hills

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 51min

Disclaimer: You may experience some unscheduled breaks between blog posts. This is perfectly normal and nothing to panic about. The delays may be due to the fact that Trondheim is finally sunny and thus blogging sisters must spend as much time as possible outdoors before the temperature drops again (and it will). Other delays may happen because of Sister the Youngest’s fancy new job which she started this month. Please be patient, and we’ll be back to normal in no time at all. Or in a while. Who knows?

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Thomas (Hemmings) is a self-centred asshole fashion photographer in swinging London. He is also, as spoiled, rich people often are in movies, bored and disillusioned.

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“Do I objectify women? Of course not! I open my shirt while I’m working and have them squirm half naked underneath me because it’s the professional thing to do.”

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After stalking a couple in a park and ignoring the woman’s request that he stops taking her picture, he is surprised to find the same woman (Redgrave) at his studio. She has come to ask for her pictures back, even going so far as to offer sexual favours for their return.

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“I might consider giving you the film if you get half naked and squirm a bit…”

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He eventually gives her a film roll, but not the one she’s after. Instead, when she leaves he develops the pictures. But what he finds is unexpected: did he acidentally capture a murder on film?

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“Oh no! A white blob! Must be murder.”

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Our favourite scene in Blow-Up was the titular one: where Thomas develops the photos and gradually blows up parts of the images to reveal what was hidden in the background. It’s very well done and exciting to watch.

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Pictured: our second favourite scene and coincidentally our new summer wardrobe.

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We also enjoyed the mystery of what really happened in the park and who the woman was. However, if you’re looking for a mystery which neatly wraps up in the end, stay away! You will find no resolution here.

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Although, according to some sources, you will find the pubic hair of one of these lovely ladies. So if that’s your fetish, enjoy!

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What you will find are such things as excellent mod fashion, great (occasionally stressful) music, gratuitous nudity, an asshole protagonist (who is also a clear inspiration for Austin Powers, but without the charm), beautiful photography, a very Norwegian rock concert audience (no one moves!), an amazing old antiques-dealer who reminded us a bit of Rebecca Femm (“Can’t have landscapes!”), and existential crises.

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Oh, and there are mimes. But don’t let that put you off. It’s actually very tastefully done.

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Overall, we enjoyed this movie. We HATED the protagonist, and the fact that no one seems to have a name (except Ron) made it confusing to take notes as we were watching (yes, we take notes. We are that nerdy…), but it is beautiful to look at and intriguing to watch.

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Life lesson: don’t be like creepy Thomas. Don’t take photos of strangers and then refuse to stop when they ask you to. Have we mentioned that Thomas sucks? ‘Cause he does!

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What we learned: If you find a dead body, try calling the police BEFORE you go partying.

Next time: Cul-De-Sac (1966)

#267 The Ipcress File

Watched: April 15 2019

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Frank Gatliff, Freda Bamford

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 49min

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Dr Radcliff boards the 7.55 to Nottingham and then promptly disappears – the last in a long line of misplaced scientist working for the British government.

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Pro tip: if scientists are disappearing at an alarming rate, try diversifying your reading material when in public.

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After a long and strange morning ritual (who goes through all that trouble to grind beans and make French press coffee and then NOT let it steep??? You’re basically drinking beige water at that point), Sergeant Harry Palmer (Caine) of the Ministry of Defence goes into work and is given a new mission recovering the misplaced scientific equipment.

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“He’s about yea high, grey hair, glasses, sort of sciency-looking..? Yeah, we keep losing him, so give us a call if someone turns him in, ok?”

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The “insubordinate trickster” Palmer starts to track down the main suspect, Albanian scientist-stealer “Bluejay” (Gatliff), alongside fellow spies and officers, including love interest Jean Courtney (Lloyd). However, it becomes clearer and clearer that there is a mole inside the British Army. Who can it be?

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In real life, our money would be on the guy with the obviously fake glasses.

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Can you do better than The Ipcress File if you’re in the mood for an espionage thriller with brainwashed scientists, sexual tension, double crossing weasels, cheeky yet charming scoundrels, and some sort of cooking fetish? Possibly. But you can certainly do a hell of a lot worse!

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We think this picture speaks for itself

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Michael Caine is more likable than he has any right to be, and we enjoyed the bureaucracy of espionage – you never see a single L101 in a Bond-film! We also loved the exchange in the parking garage, the library (we want one!), the bowler hats, all the lamps, the shot composition, and the sort of jazzy/noiry music.

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So many lamps. We kind of regret not counting them. Hit us up if you are bored enough to do that very thing! #coronahobbies

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Double this with The Manchurian Candidate for the perfect cold war/paranoia/science-gone-wild/brainwashing thriller evening. And kids? Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands and watch excellent movies.

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Make yourself a pot of stronger coffee than Harry and have yourself a marathon!

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What we learned: Don’t slouch like a pregnant camel. Also, Sister the Youngest learned the advantages of a revolver vs. an automatic for when you want to get away with a crime. Sister the Oldest has known for a very long time…

Next time: The Knack… And How to Get It (1965)

#266 The Hill

Watched: April 5 2019

Director: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear, Jack Watson, Michael Redgrave, Norman Bird

Year: 1965

Runtime: 2h 3min

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Hey kids! Are you stuck at home? Feeling increasingly bored, frustrated and lonely? Longing for society to return to normal? Well then, have we got the perfect uplifting movie for you!

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“All right boys! Ready to make a comedic romp reminiscent of M*A*S*H? (which curiously hasn’t been produced yet, but I’ll still reference it because that’s the sort of oddball character I am!)”

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The Hill has it all: sadism, inhumanity, madness, cruelty, injustice and an overhanging sense of impending doom.

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Oh, but there’s young, sexy Sean Connery, so it’s got that going for it which is nice.

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Sure, it might leave you depressed and disillusioned, but it could also put your own situation into perspective.

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Pro tip: if you pay attention to the background, you’ll get a bunch of good ideas for home workouts you can do while socially distancing. You’ll also feel very sorry for the poor extras…

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Seriously though, The Hill is horrible and great and disturbing. It’s one of those movies we would never watch again (too frustrating!) but that we’re very grateful we’ve seen. And we’ll never stop encouraging others to watch it (although we’re not really selling it, are we..?). You can feel, smell and taste it. It is extremely intense, but worth watching, if only just once.

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If you’re looking for horrible characters to direct your hatred and frustrations towards, then look no further! We’ve got you covered.

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What we learned: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Also, no one wins…

Next time: The Ipcress File (1965)

#265 The Collector

Watched: March 19 2019

Director: William Wyler

Starring: Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 59min

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Freddie Clegg (Stamp) is a socially awkward butterfly collector who’s convinced that the only reason he can’t get a date is because women won’t take the time to get to know him. Then one day he wins a large sum of money, buys a remote farmhouse, and decides to test his theory by kidnapping Miranda Grey (Eggar) – an art student he’s been stalking for a while.

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“Stop..!. struggling..! I am a nice.. *hnng* ..guy – I’m doing this for your own good.”

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After the initial shock of having been drugged and taken by a psychopath, Miranda decides the only way she’ll leave the house alive is if she plays along with her deranged “host.” She agrees to stay for four weeks, during which time Freddie believes he can Beauty-and-the-Beast her into falling in love with him.

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“Oh, you’ll be quite happy here in this cold, damp cellar prison I made you. You’ll have a bed, clothes, art supplies – everything a young woman could possibly need! Now love me. “

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The Collector may be from 1965 (based on a 1963 novel) but the parallels to certain contemporary movements are impossible to ignore. Freddie definitely doesn’t see himself as a bad guy (he’s a Nice Guy, you see – just misunderstood), but he also doesn’t see Miranda as human. She is only there to fulfill his needs – she has none of her own. And when she fails to act the way he wants her to, she has no more value to him.

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Trying to flood the house to get the attention of a neighbour when your host is finally letting you have a bath? Where were you raised???

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We absolutely loved this one, and were on the edge of our seat throughout. Terence Stamp was amazing as the psychopathic Freddie – his physicality as well as his sudden and chilly shifts in mood and attitude were fascinating to watch.

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The switches between childlike, innocent happiness and icy calculation are very creepy

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Samantha Eggar is similarly engaging as Miranda – she never loses her defiance despite having to negotiate and play along with her kidnapper. She, like us, never quite loses hope that she might eventually escape this hell.

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Despite her fear, Miranda tries to connect with and manipulate Freddie – anything to regain her freedom

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If you’re a fan of psychological horror and/or serial killers, The Collector is a classic and you simply must check it out. And what better time to watch a movie about someone being held against their will in a remote house than in the midst of a pandemic in which we’re being forced to stay inside our houses? If nothing else it will put your own isolation into perspective. (We hope you’re doing well though, and that you’re not too lonely, wherever you are. Stay inside and stay safe!)

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And even if you’re stuck inside, it’s still nice to occasionally dress up for dinner. Especially if you’re alone and not with the psychopath who abducted you… If that is the case, eat in your PJs. You deserve it.

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What we learned: NEVER hit them once and then try to run. You keep hitting until there’s nothing left but splattered brain matter (theoretically of course. Please do not organize a raid on our apartments. Or search our basement).

Next time: The Hill (1965)

#261 Simon of the Desert

Watched: February 23 2019

Director: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, Enrique Álvarez Félix, Hortensia Santoveña

Year: 1965

Runtime: 43 min

As attentive readers may have noticed, we have now skipped a few numbers. That is because Edgar has recently edited the list and added a few more movies to the earlier years. Hopefully, we’ll get around to watching them and adding them as soon as the Corona crisis is over. However, for now the library is closed and we just have to work with what we have. That also means that we might have to skip a few upcoming movies as well since we can’t get our grabby (and quite possibly infected) hands on them. Not to worry though – we’ll make up for it as soon as we can. For now, were just happy that the Norwegian government are taking precautions and doing their best to keep us all safe.

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Disclaimer done, now on to the good stuff! Simon of the Desert is a weird one, which should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody considering Buñuel’s earlier works. Basically, Simon (Brook) is super pious. Like, really incredibly pious. And humble. Let’s not forget it. In fact, he’s so pious and humble that he disowns his own mother (Santoveña) because he needs to concentrate on God and being pious and humble.

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“Bar none I am the most humblest. Number one at the top of the humble list.”

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Still, you can’t walk around being as humble as Simon without drawing the attention of the devil him/herself (Pinal). Once you set yourself on a literal pedestal as the best person in the world, Satan will want to get in on this action and prove you wrong. But who will win? The fallen angel or the oh so pious man?

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“Don’t judge me. I was going through an identity crisis when this was filmed, wanting to be Jesus and stuff. So embarrassing now…”

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This was amazing. We loved the skipping brother Matthew/Matías (Félix), the inner monologue, the mix of time periods, the incredibly unsubtle Satan, and the coffin. Don’t ask. The film looks beautiful and some of the close-ups reminded us a lot of the gorgeous The Passion of Joan of Arc.

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Also, very topically, Simon practised social distancing before it was cool. Well done, Simon! You’re doing your part!

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Besides taking one for the team by socially distancing himself from everyone though, Simon’s pursuit of holiness and divinity seems extremely selfish and self-indulgent. He’s not really trying to save the world or anything, just himself. That being said, he does perform miracles which the villagers surrounding him take for granted so maybe he was just fed up with not being appreciated. At least Satan gave him something to focus on – Pinal is very entertaining and a lot more interesting than Simon. But then again, that is always the case, isn’t it?

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Seriously – who would you rather party with?

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What we learned: Get thee behind me Satan! And keep your distance – we’re trying not to get infected here.

Next time: The 10th Victim (1965)